Community Unites in Wake of Harvey’s Destruction

By Naomi Harward

The damage caused by Hurricane Harvey this past week has set new records, according to several news sources. But amidst the vast devastation, the people of Houston are coming together in a community effort to rebuild their city. Danger continues to loom over Houston, even as floodwater levels begin to recede, the Associated Press reported Wednesday, August 30.

By Thursday morning, there had been fires and two explosions at the local Arkema, Inc. chemical plant, resulting in a potentially harmful – though reportedly non-lethal – plume.

The groundwater near several toxic waste sites in Houston is also in danger of being contaminated as the sites are flooded.

And relief efforts continue as families fish through the remains of their flooded homes.

“Harvey didn’t spare anyone: The whole city is traumatized,” said AP source Lynnette Borrel, a victim of the flooding.

Cedarville University journalism graduate Anna Dembowski, now editor of Community Impact Newspaper, lives in Tomball, about 20 miles north of Houston. While the areas around her experienced a significant amount of flooding as well – she was one of many who was forced to work from home due to the surrounding water levels – Dembowski said it was not the same level of devastation that Houston endured from Harvey.

“It’s crazy how much variance in severity there is in just 40 miles,” she said.

She said she drove through Houston almost every day during her commute, which made seeing the news coverage of the flooded city hit that much closer to home.

“It makes it a little more personal when you know the buildings that are starting to flood,” she said.

In the midst of the disaster, however, there is hope. Dembowski talked about her time volunteering at her church as it aided in Houston’s relief efforts. Houston Northwest Church suffered its own share of flooding, with several of its buildings 3-feet-deep in water. But that hasn’t stopped them from standing alongside the community.

Dembowski said she was encouraged by the way people came together after the storm.

“They’re coming from as far as Oklahoma,” she said, to bring trucks filled with donations for Harvey survivors. Items such as bread, which is difficult to get at the moment, are being delivered daily to victims.

“Someone drove 2 hours, just to bring Houston a pallette of bread,” Dembowski said.

She also said that hotels are supporting many families whose homes were completely destroyed by the floods.

The hospitality and supportiveness she witnessed in the community was “like it’s Christmas”, and it was something she said she was glad she could be a part of.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25, 2017 as a Category 4 storm. According to CNN, it was “the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Charley in 2004”. It claimed the lives of over 31 people, a number which authorities told AP they fear may continue to rise as the flood waters continue to recede. Millions of Texas residents were forced to evacuate their homes. Power outages continue, and thousands of residents continue to reside in relief shelters.

As with any natural disaster of this capacity, it will take time and a strong community effort for the people of Houston to recover from this extensive loss.

Naomi Haward is a senior journalism major and the photography editor for Cedars. She is an avid photographer who loves writing, the outdoors, and people-watching.

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Cedarville University 2016 graduate Anna Dembowski (not pictured) is a member of Houston Northwest, and also able to aid in the relief efforts. [Images courtesy of Anna Dembowski.]

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